St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Monday, May 28, 2018

2018 Memorial Day at Wolf Creek Cemetery

Scott took 70 photos of Memorial Day at Wolf Creek, Sterling, Polk County, Wisconsin.  Here they are without editing or removing the bad ones..

Wolf Creek Cemetery Memorial Day  2018
Ninety degree temperatures didn’t stop 160 plus folks from gathering at the Wolf Creek Cemetery in Sterling Township for Memorial Day ceremonies.  One hundred twenty US flags on veteran graves, hundreds of flower pots filled with blooms as well as massive century-old lilacs and spirea gave the cemetery a festive look on a serious day.  Local folks have been remembering veterans here for over 140 years and doing it well.    
    The Veterans from the Cushing American Legion proudly marched in, standing straight as their weary bodies would allow, their  3rd  and last stop of the day for men whose wars are but history book stories to be studied in school. 
  Children recited poems and sang, the Minister exhorted, the list of 120 names were read, the rifle salute, honor guard, laying of the wreath, ending with taps bugled across the silent cemetery as folks remembered wars and wars and their casulties  that touch each family for generations.
    Soldier John R .Martin was honored with the Legion wreath this year.  The program over, folks visited and gradually drifted to the 1922 Wolf Creek School building (the Methodist Church) where the Ladies Aide had lunch read including cherry Kool Aide and potato salad.  
The Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society continued its decade long tradition of researching one soldier’s name from the roll call.  A grave with a Civil War flag holder – John R Martin, 1831-1899 was chosen this year.  He is one of two Civil War veterans buried in Wolf Creek who fought for the Confederacy, the other being A. C. Neyman (Nimon Lake north of Cushing named for him). They rest among a dozen Union soldiers, at one time their enemy, but all grudges long ago forgotten and forgiven before they died, when old soldiers get together and swap stories of their youth, battles and comrades lost/

Sergeant ­­­John Richard Martin of the Alabama 47th Regiment, Company G, Army of the Confederacy
 John was born in Georgia in 1831, moved west to new land in Alabama in the 1850s, got drafted in the 1860s Civil War and served the Confederacy four years as a foot soldier, one of 80 survivors of the original 300 men in his unit.     
After the war, with Alabama in shambles, John, his wife Mary and their three daughters joined a group of 9 families who moved to Laketown, Polk County, Wisconsin in 1869 for a fresh start in life.  
In Wisconsin, John homesteaded 160 acres south east of Wolf Lake.   He lived a life of hard work, wresting a farm out of the deep woods, passing away in 1899 after having seen his three daughters married to local men.  Many of his descendants still live in the area with names:  Emerson, Lagoo, Doty and McCain.   
John did not believe in slavery, did not want Alabama to leave the Union that his grandfathers fought to create.  He and many of his Northern Alabama neighbors were caught in a war they did not think was right, but as men have done for ages, when drafted by politicians who start wars, put on a uniform and served.
  We remember his service today, and the service of well over 100 other veterans buried in this cemetery today. Each one has a story that should be told. 


The shade of ancient cedar trees  made 90F feel comfortable for these farmers who joked “Well we could be hauling hay,” when asked about the heat. 

That the Minister’s message was short and to the point surely was appreciated by the Veterans from the Cushing American Legion at their 3rd cemetery of the day.  

The Lagoo family gathered to remember that 5 of their uncles buried in Wolf Creek were WWII veterans. 

The home made desserts from the Wolf Creek Methiodist Ladies were standing up quite well considering the 1922 old school building has not air conditioning. 

Great to see you are still above ground

Sunday, April 8, 2018

April 7-8 at the Bird Feeder

The bird feeding season is just about over.  We try to give it up when the birds have other food and the bears tear everything down.  
Our trailcam caught what happens beside the birds at a feeder in our farm yard.  The soundtrack is from a tape I copied from Jennie Nelson of Sterling many years ago.  She and her siblings and mother were "musical."  I don't like to use copyrighted music or my videos on youtube are limited in distribution. 
It starts with a bird feeder tipped over

Then a bird feeder destroyed

Video link
24 Hours at the Bird Feeder

Trumpeter swans are waiting for nesting season to begin on Wolf Creek along Hwy 87

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

2018 Maple Syrup Season -- Slow start

The 2018 spring in NW Wisconsin has been cold and snowy.  We tapped in mid March and over 3-4 weeks have had very little sap run yet.  
April 4th, we finally cooked the sap we had collected since the beginning of season --and got about 7 gallons of syrup from batch #1.  It tastes good, is light color, but was a long time in coming. 
This week is too cold to run sap again, but next week looks better.  
  The woods has from 1 - 2 feet of snow, much of it new.  
To look at some photos of the last week and today (April 4, 2018) follow this link.  If you see bare ground--it is last week, as this week is all snow covered again.  
Maple Woods April 2018

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Building a House Phase 1 1993 Framing Lumber

On May 11th, 1992, we made an offer of $44,000 for 5 acres of land with a nice garage, well, septic tank and a 1974 (?) 70 foot mobile home on it.  
We were working in Rochester, MN at the time, had been renters for years, and finally decided to buy our own home.  However, the costs were very high in the Rochester area, and so we thought maybe we would try to build our own home on some land in the country. 
 The 5 acres as a 160 foot wide strip of woods, 1/4 mile long, an old wood lot on the prairies of MN near Pine Island, MN, but out in the country.  The area between two branches and valleys of the Zumbro River, meeting at Pine Island, had protected it from fires that kept the prairies tree free.  The wedge that was about 2 miles wide for about 5 miles west of Pine Island (a wedge of Pine trees) was valuable for farmers who settled the prairie and had no trees for building or firewood.  So the land was platted into long narrow 5 acres strips and sold for wood lots; 5 acres being thought the right amount.  The narrow strips so each had access to the road. 
  Most of the strips had been consolidated later and were farmland, but a few still remained.  Ours was heavily wooded with oak, basswood, bitternut hickory, butternuts and ash.  The elm were mostly gone already.  
  We looked at the land May 11th, and the back woods was untouched, unpastured deep woods, in heavy spring wildflower bloom-- wild geraniums, trilliums, waterleaf, bellwort, and all of the deep woods blooming lushly.  Margo was immediately sold!  
  The trailer house was well kept up, had a wood stove/fireplace and two bedrooms, and an addition for an entryway.  The 4-car garage had one separate insulated bay as a workshop.  
  So we made an offer of the full price and offered to do a land contract administered through the local bank so the sellers (two retired folks in their 70s who wanted to move to town) could get the principal and interest over 15 years.  
  And they took the offer and we moved in with the idea of building our own house ourselves.  Scott was 17 and for his last year of high school drove 15 miles to Byron where he had gone the first three rather than changing schools.  We didn't ask if he could, just let him do it without saying anything to the school district as we were relatively near the border already.  
   To build our cabin back in 1975, we cut all of the lumber on Dad and Byron's sawmill.  We cut the logs, sawed them, planed them to dimension for framing and for floor and roof.  Very inexpensive if not labor intensive. 
  So I thought we would try the same with the new house.  Here is the start of it through 1993 photos where Dad, Everett, Scott, Margo, Byron and I turned trees to framing lumber.  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

1930 Electric Power Line Crosses the St Croix River in Burnett County South of HWY 70

An interesting scrapbook came to the Luck Museum last week from New York.  I had exchanged emails last fall with Lisa N, whose grandfather spent the summer of 1930 working on electricity projects in Polk and Burnett Counties of Wisconsin and Pine County Minnesota. 
The scrapbook was 100+ photos of the project and included building a tower on the Wisconsin side of the St Croix River and running a high voltage line (66 kilovolts) from a new power plant in Pine City to Cumberland, WI.  
Wisconsin Hydro-Electric Co., headquartered in Amery, WI appears to have been the owner of the line.  A clipping from the a September newspaper, the Cumberland Advocate, explains the project.  Here is the clipping, some photos and some maps that are related to the St Croix River crossing only.  There are also photos of the new Pine City Steam Power plant being built, the Cumberland electrical substation, the Huntingdon MN dam, a dam near Star Prairie and some from Milaca.  
 All that is left of the St Croix Crossing is the tower base -- 4 galvanized irons sticking out of the ground on the high WI bank of the River. 
  Everett Hanson, my brother, said that the DNR crew he worked with in 1972 (or about then) came across them when building some trails along the St Croix  He said the folks speculated, but none knew what they were.   The next time he heard about the base was in 2015 when another DNR person, Mike Wallis, was looking at the area for timber sales.  At the time, he contacted Everett, who contacted me, and again we speculated, but found no information. 
  Finally we know!  The next question is --when was it removed.  As best we can pin it down right now is between 1940 and 1950.  


  Photos from the Harold M Holm Album.  He was one of the engineers on the project (noted in the clipping above). His granddaughter, Lisa passed along the album.  Harold was a Dane from Racine, WI.  At the time the power line was being built, Harold's father and mother-in law were living in Luck as Minister Neilsen of St Peter and Luck Lutheran churches.  Harold parked his truck in the parsonage garage, and Lisa's father was born in Luck.

Building the tower on the Wisconsin side of the St Croix River

Although you can't see it, on the far bank in the cut right of way is the electric tower on the Wisconsin side

The vertical line in the center of the photo is a wire overhead leading to the toweron top of the hill (not really visible here)
View from the St Croix Wisconsin tower looking east across the Burnett County, Anderson Township sand barrens. 

This is a view from one of the towers along the 54 mile line.  They were placed where lakes were crossed and over the St Croix River.  I don't know if this is looking east over the St Croix or somewhere else. The photos are not all labeled and not always in geographical order

The crawler was used for pulling up the H wooden poles

Working on the sand barrens 

This about 1940 land use survey map of along the St Croix in Burnett County shows the electric line angling from lower right to upper left. 

The tower had to have a special base built below ground

Complete tower

I put a line on a modern Google map where the line crossed the St Croix. There is no vegetation corridorleft now.

The 1938 Wisconsin Aerial photographs are on the internet.  With them you can trace the exact route from Pine City MN to Cumberland WI.  The route is Pine City to Benson (Randall) to Trade River, to Atlas, Luck, McKiney Cumberland.  I drew the yellow mark just above and right of the cleared right of way.  Here it crosses the St Croix River. 

About where the "4" shows on the map next to the Minnesota text is where the electric line crossed the St Croix River.  This is 1915.  The Railroad crossed the river to the south on its way to Grantsburg, WI

1938  with my yellow line at the St Croix River crossing

Another photo below -- not sure which side of the River,but maybe looking east into MN.  And not even sure if this is the St Croix River. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

History of the Wolf Creek, Polk County Wisconsin Cemetery by Duane Doolittle

Duane Doolittle, like his father before him, was on the Wolf Creek Cemetery board for decades.  He passed away in 2017, and left big shoes to fill as a Sterling town board member and Cemetery chairman.  
  In January of 2017, at the Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society Christmas Party, I recorded him telling about the history of the Wolf Creek Cemetery.  

You can see the video at the link at the bottom. 

History of the Wolf Creek Cemetery

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Barn Gets a New Roof

Our farm barn is a few years over 100 years old.  The roof has been getting poor and in one place started leaking this summer.  We got several quotes and the best was with the local Amish roofers from Frederic, WI. 
  The came out 3 days in January, put 2x4 purlins over the whole roof and 2x6 edge planks, then screwed white steel panels. We had them put trim on too, do the milk house and then put red steel on the south end of the barn, in poor shape too.  
  Some photos from the work crew. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, Happy Holidays

Hope you have a great holiday season!   You can check out our annual Christmas card newsletter at 
2017 Christmas Newsletter  

If you miss posts here, we do a daily post with photos from the farm on facebook.  Just friend Russell B Hanson
  click the link 
Russ on Facebook

Monday, October 30, 2017

Becoming a Scientist

My First Microscope  Russ Hanson

When I was about 12 years old, I asked my parents for my own microscope for either Christmas or my Birthday (December 10th).  We shopped for Christmas presents from the two big home catalogs – Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Wards.  I had decided to be a scientist by that time and I knew I needed a microscope, telescope, chemistry set and some science books to read. 

I picked out a $12 microscope that looked like what I could use and was in the price range I thought was right for a present.  I worked on the farm, but it wasn’t until next year that I could work for my neighbor, Raymond Noyes and earn money on my own.  All of the money we earned picking cucumbers for the pickle factory was saved ($80 a summer) for school clothes. 

 In 1958, Dad worked out at $1 per hour as a carpenter when he had time while still farming fulltime, so $12 was what he earned for 12 hours of work – a great deal of money for the whole family.  
Mom and Dad felt that gifts for us that were educational were worth paying more for than toys.  As I wanted this badly, I negotiated with them and said I would accept it as both my birthday and Christmas gift for 1958.   I got it on my birthday.   I did get a few smaller gifts for Christmas, but the microscope was the main gift.   

 It came with two eyepieces and a few blank glass slides and a little booklet (now lost) on how to use it.   In the booklet, it said I should order glass slides with coverslips and glass slides with wells to put a drop of liquid.  So with a few dollars of birthday/Christmas money I ordered them too.  I don’t have those anymore with the microscope.

It took a while to learn how to use the microscope and I found that most things were best seen at the lowest power.  The longer eyepiece and the shortest rotating stage gave 60x (60 times magnification).  Higher powers were hard to focus and difficult to get the light right and dirt on the lenses showed up more.   

Things that were mostly transparent worked with the little round mirror under the stage (flat part) adjusted to focus light up through the hole, through the specimen on the glass slide and into the eyepiece.  Changing the mirror angle gave more or less light and made different views. 

If it was opaque (opposite of transparent) then I needed some light shining from the top side on the specimen.  An old goose-neck bendable reading lamp worked OK for this.  Later I bought a small flexible desk lamp just for using the microscope.

The first things I looked at were things around the house.  Flies, cloth, thread, food, and whatever looked interesting.  I wanted to look at pond water but that was harder until I got the coverslips – tiny flat thin sheets of glass.  Using an eyedropper (from an old Vicks medicine bottle) I put a drop of water from the swamp on the slide and looked.  It was messy and I got the bottom of the lens wet and dirty when I wasn’t careful and moved it too low.  It was is bothersome to clean them (all of them come apart by unscrewing them and can be cleaned with a cue-tip and alcohol). 

When I got the coverslips, I could put the drop down, gently put the coverslip over it and then look at the thin layer of trapped water between glass and slip.  I got a book from the school library and identified all sorts of little animals—big rotifers, amoebas, tiny odd looking things, euglena (half plant-half animal) and mosses algae and more—often swimming around in the tiny flattened drop. Nowadays a student can ask the school biology teacher to borrow a couple of glass slides and cover slips, but I was in grade school at Cushing and they didn’t have a microscope at all, and science was mostly from books.

 I spent hours looking at the life in an eyedropper drop of swamp water, of Wolf Creek water from Grandpa’s farm (Marvin’s now) and of course I looked at dirt, at sand, at plants, at blood, and everything I could find. 

 Eventually when I got into high school, the biology lab had a few microscopes that were much better and bigger and I could see more, but I always liked my own first microscope, and so kept it all my life to bring it out once in a while to look at something. 
It is an Adams 60x to 600x although the higher powers don’t work very good – and the lens are now somewhat dirty, I could use them if I was careful.   Having a microscope taught me to be careful, gentle, and scrupulously clean, and that is why my microscope still works.

When a lens is dirty, you can tell that by turning the eyepiece and seeing the dirt move on that set of lenses, or turning out  It could be cleaned up more, but it takes patience, care and is hard to get it really clean. 

The microscope was made in Japan, has brand name Adams  60x – 600x and came from either Sears or Wards.

My Uncle Lloyd Hanson got me started in electronics as the branch of science I decided to specialize in.  He told us about a “crystal radio” that he had in his barracks during World War II in California where he was  stationed.  He brought it out and said it ran without batteries and needed a long wire aerial and a ground, and could pick up local radio stations during the day and more at night.  He said during the war, they weren’t supposed to have a radio in the barracks as it would bother other people, so he used this one – a wooden box about 6x6x6 with some knobs and dials and a place to hook an earphone and the aerial and ground. 

He loaned it to me to try out and although I never got it going, decided to get a Crystal Radio for $4 from Sears for another birthday and that one did work.  I built it myself.  We didn’t have any good books on this in any libraries around and we didn’t get to them anyway, so I wrote to the Wisconsin Free Traveling Library in Madison for books on crystal radios, and they sent me one, and later another to read for a month.  The library was for folks in rural areas who couldn’t otherwise get books on subjects they wanted. No internet in those days!

By the time I was 16, I built my 6 inch reflector telescope, had bought several electronics kits, got a chemistry set for Christmas and was already taking all the science classes in High School and planning to go to college in physics, math and chemistry.  I managed to get a major in physics and math, later a minor in chemistry and another minor in computer science and took night classes most of my working life to learn more about electronics and computers.  However, my main job for 25 years was in medicine and biology where I was useful to the biologists because I knew about much of the science and math they didn’t study.   

 (I plan to give the microscope away to a budding scientist and this is for that person)
I hope you have as much enjoyment out of looking at the microscopic world under your first microscope as I did.  When I got older – much older, I bought a used better microscope that I still have.  I could see things better, but never really enjoyed it nearly as much as this one.  It is now 60 years old and, other than needing some cleaning, in just about as good a shape as when I got it.